23 West Coffee will open this week in Webster Groves
A new cafe is scheduled to open in Webster Groves on November 15. Located at 23 W. Lockwood, in the Old Webster Historic District, 23 West Coffee It has been in the planning stages for several years, according to owner Rich Elias, who acquired the property in 2019. Here’s what to know before you go.
Elias describes 23 West as a “modern traditional café.” Elias explains that it is traditional in the sense of the welcoming feeling it evokes, and modern in its physical features and philosophy. Linda Dulles of Linea Design, Inc. led the project. Interior Design. Creative Director Irina Pavlova was responsible for signage, branding, marketing and packaging. Webster-based photographer Jennifer Silverberg captured the vision and spirit of the team’s concept.
The exterior — pewter gray brick with limestone accents, expansive windows, and a 20-seat patio — was made more inviting with the addition of subtle signage, including the building’s latitude and longitude degrees marked in one corner.
Inside, abundant natural light floods more than 30 nicely spaced benches and divided into several seating areas, all defined by custom architectural elements… including a tree slat table, a “jungle” wall, and most importantly, a grid of the store’s photographed neighborhood. Using different types, textures and colors of algae. “It’s clearly a moss wall,” says Elias. “It’s not clearly a map either.”
Orders are served at a U-shaped service counter topped with durable white quartz with black veining. The focal point is the best-in-class La Marzocco espresso machine, handcrafted in Florence, Italy. The drop ceiling is made of warm, dark-coloured wood. Swivel-headed guests may not be able to see the entry chandelier, a sculpture evocative of two giant dismantled light bulbs, a fitting badge for a café.
Elias developed the details of the coffee—origins, specifications, and roast—in collaboration with First Crack Coffee, a local company that supplies custom-branded coffee to boutique stores across the country. The house blend is a balanced blend of beans from Ethiopia, Peru and Costa Rica with a light to medium roast, with a “complex yet accessible flavor,” says Elias, who chose the origins of the beans as “a solid foundation to highlight the different flavors that great coffee has to offer.” The goal This includes expanding the roasting range to other regions, whether permanently or seasonally, but these are the basic elements on which the brand will be based.
Drip coffee options include house blend and origin of the day. Single-origin coffees are packaged in embossed boxes for home brewing, each with their name, location and coordinates. (For distinction, espresso and roasted coffee are served in bags.) “Different coffees are best prepared, served and consumed at a variety of temperatures, so we thought of packaging the different origins in boxes,” says Pavlova. With an overlapping map, with coordinates indicated in degrees, as well as minutes and seconds. Displaying the bags next to the boxes draws attention to both.
Elias understands the importance of offering quality sweet and savory pastries in a café, and took the time to find the right partner in LuciAnna Pastries based in Alton, Illinois. Among the offerings: almond nuts, scones, several types of quiche, sweet and savory croissants, lemon tarts, oat bars, chocolate chip and molasses cookies, and “magnificent scones.”
Although Elias is new to the coffee industry, he has a long-standing appreciation for coffee shops. His frequent travels take him to cities across the country, where he makes a point of seeking out locally owned stores. “I owe a lot to coffee shops,” he says. “I’ve done some of my most important work sitting in a café.”
Elias’ years of experimentation helped him develop a vision of what a café should look like in 2023. His idea was to “develop a brand that people will not only want to try, but will want to take home with them…to create a name.” “And a place associated with great coffee in St. Louis,” he says.
In 2019, Elias purchased a new building at 23 W. Lockwood (on a lot that was part of the former Gerber Church Mortuary). His law office (Elias, LLC) is located at the back of the building. He thought that instead of leasing the front space, “a better use would be to create a really cool and unusual coffee shop in Webster Groves, a true ‘first coffee shop,’ where coffee is the prime directive,” he says. The fact that he has “the shortest ride to a coffee shop in town” was not lost on him.
Today, as the café prepares to open, café veteran Donna Schneider will mentor the baristas and work the counter. “We were thrilled when she joined the team,” says Elias. “It’s known around town and admired by more coffee drinkers than I’ll ever know.”
Training and technical support is provided by Ian Cantrell, owner of Clayton-based Vapore, a behind-the-scenes company that sells and services coffee brewing systems. Cantrell also teaches proper brewing and frothing techniques, as well as the nuances of latte art. Cantrell emphasizes the simplicity of “a real coffee shop that delivers a real experience.” “At 23 West, you order a cappuccino and you get a proper 6-ounce drink, the way we feel it should be,” he says. The 23 West team will be overseen by Director of Operations Melinda Bommarito.
The store’s initial operating hours are 6am to 2pm daily and are subject to change upon request. Elias says online ordering and delivery (through Toast) won’t be available right out of the gate, but the technology is there.
(Marks for translation) George Mahy